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Illinois Country Living


Duane Noland

N. Duane Noland
the President/CEO
the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

Commentary:

Harvesting the Votes
After the Election Will You Be a Part of the Energy Solution?

On the way into work today it dawned on me, the similarity between harvest season and election season. As candidates for political office are knocking on doors attempting to harvest votes among their constituents, the farmer is harvesting in his fields. It’s a long process for both, but each is hoping their efforts pay off in bumper crops.

As a former politician, I recall the campaigns I ran for the Illinois State House. There were all these planned events, candidates’ forums and speaking events, where I would be in front of the masses. A refreshing reprieve was when I went door to door, to visit with the voters, hearing the issues that concerned them.

Sometimes people begin to think it doesn’t matter. They get inundated with mail, phone calls, voice mails and campaign signs. They get numb to it. Yet, we need to realize the importance of getting to know all candidates and their messages. Consider this.

We focus so much on the presidential election, but most of your federal officials start at your local and state government. Not all, but most. When I look at Illinois, the members of the Congressional delegation, over half came out of the state legislature: Barack Obama was a former state senator, retired speaker Dennis Hastert came out of the Illinois House, John Shimkus was a county treasurer. As you see candidates come out for office, you don’t know 10 or 20 years from now who will be a candidate for U.S. Senate or president. It’s a great time to get to know someone on the local level and get to know where they stand on the issues.

We, including newly elected officials, have some phenomenal challenges before us now in the energy industry. The reserve power supply safety cushion we built in the 70s and 80s is nearly exhausted. We are running out of surplus power and brownouts are possible. The energy demand that fuels our economy is increasing in this digital age. New energy infrastructure is difficult to get approved and built in a timely manner.

We have fallen behind in providing new technologies. Breakthroughs haven’t happened because we haven’t put enough money into research.

People are going to be experiencing sticker shock when it comes to rate increases. It’s happened already at the gas pump and it’s coming to everyone’s electric meter.

Now, take these concerns and fast-forward into 2009, when climate change legislation over global warming concerns will be addressed.

The new president - providing the disruption in the economy has slowed - will roll out in one of his first initiatives, a platform to control global warming. He will want to put his fingerprints on landmark legislation to save our planet, if you will.

That will mean some tough choices. We feel that will come in the form of either a tax on carbon emissions or a somewhat more hidden tax, called a carbon cap and trade system. The cap means industries have an allotment and they have to cap those emissions or trade with someone who can. There will be a cost and the cost will be passed on to you the cooperative member.

The reality is this. If they say we have to get back to 1990 emission levels, they may not care how much it costs. State of the art technology may not be enough to satisfy these demands. That’s what scares us.

Be a part of the solution

Every rural co-op member has a role as new legislation moves forward.

• Be informed. We have talked non-stop about a looming crisis. Most consumers believe that when we walk into our homes and flip a switch, electricity will be there. That reliability is threatened.

• Recognize that things have changed, that we have some challenges. We don’t have enough generation.

• Understand that there is no silver bullet - no magic, single answer. But we can all do more to use energy efficiently.

• Talk to your elected leaders. Ask questions. Listen. Let them know what you think.

Wind is phenomenal and energy conservation and efficiency are the right things to do, but we can’t conserve our way out of this. We will need to find new ways to build base-load generation, which usually comes in the form of coal, nuclear or natural gas. Each has limitations.

Coal will have its place, but with a price

A piece of tomorrow’s electricity needs has to come from coal-fired generation, but it’s been demonized for its current emissions. That’s why we need the technology to make the plentiful supply of our country’s most abundant energy source cleaner.

These are tough questions, and those you put in office must face them. Bottom line, that makes the election/harvest season so important. Be a part of the crop in November and stay informed as new energy legislation is drafted.

Wind is phenomenal and energy conservation and efficiency are the right things to do, but we can’t conserve our way out of this. We will need to find new ways to build base-load generation, which usually comes in the form of coal, nuclear or natural gas. Each has limitations.

Coal will have its place, but with a price

A piece of tomorrow’s electricity needs has to come from coal-fired generation, but it’s been demonized for its current emissions. That’s why we need the technology to make the plentiful supply of our country’s most abundant energy source cleaner.

These are tough questions, and those you put in office must face them. Bottom line, that makes the election/harvest season so important. Be a part of the crop in November and stay informed as new energy legislation is drafted

 


N. Duane Noland is the President/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric ­Cooperatives, Springfield. He is a former state senator, active on his family farm near Blue Mound and a member of Shelby Electric Cooperative.

The opinions and views of guest commentators are their own and may not represent those of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives or the electric co-ops of Illinois.

© 2014 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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